Review: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4/PSVR)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (22.72 GB)
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I’ve just played the best VR game on PlayStation 4 since the PlayStation VR launched, and it wasn’t even created for VR. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard represents the experience that I have been longing for in a Triple-A VR title.

It has a deep and lengthy campaign and it uses the technology to engross, emphasis on gross, you in its terrifying tale. In fact, I played about 90% of the game in VR, only returning to my television in order to cover both play styles in my review.

That is not to say that VR is required in order to enjoy the game. There’s something here that stands on its own against the previous iterations of the series, and it does so with authentically disturbing environments, atmosphere, and intrigue that made the original Resident Evil so great. We’ll just ignore the acting in that old game, though.

One thing that immediately stood out to me is the more simplistic prologue to Resident Evil 7. Where the recent entries in the series have you playing a military group or gun-toting protagonist, this one places you in the role of Ethan, a guy who is simply looking for his missing wife, Mia, after he receives a mysterious note from her long after her disappearance.

As a Silent Hill fan, this more personal approach to the storyline is refreshing. Another new frontier comes in the form of playing completely in first-person mode. That’s not to say that the series has never seen first-person components, but the entire campaign is experienced through the eyes of Ethan. This makes the scares more intimate, but it also truly places you in the environments.

Many have stated that there is a familiarity and throwback the original Resident Evil in this installment. I didn’t understand the comparison until I started to make my way deeper into the campaign.

Everything from creeping through the old hallways of the mansion and the types of puzzles you solve will feel familiar. Not that the Baker house resembles anything close to the more regal mansion in the original, but I was absolutely reminded of my first experience with the series while playing through this one.

… nothing but praise for the control system …
This includes, but is not limited to, the inventory system which at times has you juggling various items while storing the excess within boxes scattered throughout the house. Combining certain items creates “usables” like healing meds and even ammo. The old health meter from the original is back, but this time it shows up on your smartwatch which is a cool touch, particularly in VR.

I can’t quite explain why exploring the Baker mansion feels so great, because it’s such a terrifying place and I know for a fact that I would never want to actually spend a second there. But within the confines of this video game the environment begs to be explored and it’s a welcome departure from previous games. It filled a very empty hole left by what could have been Silent Hills – the canceled game that P.T. was to become.

I also have nothing but praise for the control system. The first-person controls are nothing new here. They work well and combat never felt like a struggle, well any more than the struggle when fighting a crazy creature while wielding a knife or gun.

I was curious as to how this control style would work in VR since there is no Move support. Would you aim your gun with the right joystick while looking somewhere else with your headset? That sounded like a recipe for game-breaking controls. But I also thought that your gun following your head movement would look strange.

Fortunately, it didn’t feel that strange and it made for such an intuitive aiming system, that other developers should absolutely take note. So yes, you aim in VR by holding L2 and looking in the direction you’d like to shoot. You can do this while you are walking or strafing, which is great, since the enemy has no qualms about advancing as you take shots at them. Headshots are easier with this system than even using the joystick, but the latter still works well sans-VR.

Optional PlayStation VR Content

Visuals:
Resident Evil 7 would fail to gross me out, or unnerve me, if the visuals were not well done. As such, Capcom succeeded in creating an environment that terrifies and engages within the same beats.

Weathered hallways and blistered paneling within the Baker home tell stories that go beyond the narrative, and when you need some assistance in understanding the Baker family, they are more than happy to remind you with some of the most terrifying non-creature bad guys that I’ve encountered. No horror game is successful without some clever use of lighting, or lack-of, and the game does not falter in this.

… it represents a return to form …
Audio:
Whether you play it in VR, non VR, or turn off all the lights in your room, you would still be only experiencing half the thrills without the great sound design in the game. Creeks and rustling is heard at every corner, making you constantly question whether or not you are alone. Indeed sometimes my own footsteps startled me.

Even the performance by the actors evokes a high stress level because these are capable, intelligent enemies that want to toy with you as well as remind you that they are toying with you.

This is some music, and not to make this comparison again, but a Silent Hill influence is here, and that’s not a bad thing, not in the least. Seeing as how this is a more personal horror story, the style of music feels more appropriate.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
The Resident Evil series has been a bit under my radar in recent years. I admittedly lost interest in the series after the third one and only dropped in to play the fourth on the GameCube. This one piqued my interest because it takes place in a derelict home and because the antagonists looked interesting in previews. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I’m so glad I took the plunge.

Not only is this a strong follow up in the series, but it represents a return to form. It also snuck in one of the best VR experiences I’ve had, despite terrifying me at times. It’s an interesting notion considering that it wasn’t developed specifically for VR.

Either way, you will not need VR to enjoy this entry. A change of underwear, perhaps, but that’s still a compliment.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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